_by Bob Marshall
Just in from the Audubon Society:

The U.S. Senate today voted to include sweeping measures supporting Gulf restoration and land preservation in an amendment to the Transportation Bill.

The Senate is scheduled to take action on full Transportation bill which includes the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act , a bipartisan, regional effort to restore and protect the gulf coast in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

“This is a moment for hope and healing. It’s the most important conservation victory in a decade,” said Audubon President & CEO David Yarnold. “And it’s only fair that most of the money will come from BP’s penalties. In this country, if you break it, you buy it and BP owes this to the Gulf Coast. And the new dollars for buying precious lands will help us live up to our responsibility to take care of America’s national heritage for generations to come.”

The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act would:

– Specifically direct 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil penalties resulting from the oil spill to restoration of the Gulf Coast environment and local economies. This could mean as much as $10-20 billion.

– Distribute resources fairly and equitably to the affected Gulf Coast states, allowing them to launch immediate recovery efforts.

– Ensure that the funds are spent responsibly and for their intended purposes.

– Establish the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council which will develop and fund a comprehensive plan for the ecological recovery and resiliency of the Gulf Coast.

– Provide $1.4 billion over the next two years for the Land and Water Conservation Fund for buying precious lands across America.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the Transportation Bill with the RESTORE Act amendment on Tuesday, March 13.

It’s Win Some, Lose Some for Waterfowl

Last week waterfowl conservationists got really big good news when the Obama Administration announced it found a way to add about 1 million acres to habitat conservation acres, and was reshuffling 70 percent (almost $30 million) of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) so it goes to work on the prairie pothole region.

But bad news wasn’t far behind when Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) decided to deny water for agricultural uses in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties this spring, following a record drought. That left Ducks Unlimited “gravely concerned.”

“LCRA provides water for about 60,000 acres of rice, approximately one-third of the entire Texas rice acreage,” said Todd Merendino, Ducks Unlimited manager of conservation programs. “The loss of that rice acreage will be a substantial economic blow to the many farmers, communities and service industries related to rice agriculture; it will double current waterfowl habitat shortfalls along the Gulf Coast and it will likely reduce hunting opportunities this fall.”

DU is looking for ways to prevent the inevitable impact on its conservation programs in that region.

Anglers Try to Reverse “Day of Infamy” for Yellowstone Cuts

July 30, 1994 is a day that shall live in infamy for any angler who values one of the nation’s keystone fisheries; Yellowstone cutthroats.

“That’s the date the first lake trout was turned into Yellowstone Park Rangers,” said Cody, MT., angler David Sweet, a past president and current treasurer of Wyoming Trout Unlimited, and a conservationist dedicated to reversing the steady decline that has gripped that precious resource in recent years. “The lake trout are simply eating the Yellowstone Cutthroat into a severe decline.”

Not a native species, Lake trout apparently were introduced into the lake. Exactly how and when they arrived there is not known. The laker is a predatory species, “and it likes fish flesh,” Sweet said.

Sweet spoke to anglers mounting a drive to save this cherished fishery recently.